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Between or In Between: Which Is Correct?

Many are curious which is grammatically correct: between or in between. A recent message from a reader posed the question:

“From time to time I hear the term “in between.”  Is there a need to add the “in” to say that something is between two things?  Should it be spelled together? Can you please address proper usage of “in between” (if there actually is one) and the correct spelling (should we attach the “in”)? 

We are happy to oblige!  Let’s discuss the question “is it between or in between.”

Between is often the correct option

In our daily speech, we often add in when a simple between would do just fine. Now, it’s not the worst of sins when it comes to spoken communication, but one must be careful when it comes to writing.  

We can use between as a preposition or as an adverb. Oftentimes, the confusion occurs when we use between as a preposition to mean “in the space, interval or time that separates.” 

“Please park your car in between the two oak trees” is wrong.

The in is redundant since between already means “in the space that separates.” Since there is no other type of between that the “in that space” sort, there is no need for a preposition. There is no at between or on between, etc.  

“Please park your car between the two oak trees” is correct.

In the phrase above, the preposition between has an object – the two oak trees. When put together, they become a prepositional phrase between the two oak trees. However, when between is used as a preposition without an object; in between would be a better choice. 

He flies to NY every first and second week of the month, and sometimes in between.  

The restaurant serves its signature dish on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and sometimes in between.  

What is important to remember is that when we do add the in to between, they are always spelled as two separate words and never as one word. 

1. In-between as a noun

Gabriel feels like an in-between, trapped between his family’s Puerto Rican culture and the American culture of his peers. In this example, in-between is a noun that refers to a person who doesn’t belong to either of the two groups.

Often, parents believe the only choice is to have their baby cry it out or fall asleep in their arms, but there’s actually an in-between. Here, in-between is a noun that refers to an alternative lying between two extremes.

2. In-between as an adjective

The baseball term “in-between hop” refers to a baseball that bounces and reaches an infielder in the middle of its upward bounce. In this example, in-between is an adjective that describes the word hop.

Students traveling during spring break face an in-between world. Here, in-between is an adjective that describes the word world.

The Bottom Line

When you’re using between as a preposition, don’t add the word in. However, the phrase in-between can be used properly as a noun or adjective. 

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By Jessica Allen

Jessica is a full-time freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish.

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